Effect of Growing Internet Newspapers on Circulation of Print Newspapers in the U.S.

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Effect of Growing Internet Newspapers on Circulation of Print Newspapers in the U.S.

A paper submitted to 54 Conference of International Communication Conference for consideration for presentation th

October 2003

ABSTRACT An Internet survey of publishers and online editors found that growth of the Internet newspaper yielded a slightly negative effect on print newspapers’ circulation. The findings suggest that the smaller the newspaper, the larger effect the Internet newspapers had on the print newspapers. Small and medium-sized print newspapers showed obvious decreasing circulation since 1990 while the declining trend was not evident for large newspapers. The readership of the Internet newspaper had been considerably growing since 1995. However, scale of the circulation decline of print newspapers did not show evident replacing effect of the Internet newspapers. About half of the publishers and online editors did not regard the Internet newspaper as a major factor that reduced readership of print newspapers.

Keywords: Online newspaper, relative constancy, replacing effect, newspaper circulation, Internet survey


Effect of Growing Internet Newspapers on Circulation of Print Newspapers in the U.S.

Early in 1986, when new interactive technologies had been available only for several years in the United States, Rogers pointed out that “their potential effect was quite high.” He argued the new media were shaking the foundations of how communication could occur. The potential uses were intriguing and the scale of effects was “staggering.”1 As the Internet newspaper developed in the early 1990s, enthusiasm for online newspapers led some media analysts to predict that “printed newspapers would disappear in the near future.”2 As the Internet grew, print newspaper users appeared to be shrinking.3 Considering the advantages of the Internet newspaper over print newspapers, a question arises: Has the Internet newspaper already derived readers from print newspapers? The purpose of this study is to examine the effect of Internet newspapers on circulation of print newspapers in the United States since 1995. This study aims to find changes of print newspaper circulation and the Internet newspaper readership from 1995 to 2000 and the relationship between growth of the Internet newspapers and circulation of print newspapers.

LITERATURE REVIEW Effect of New Media Technology on Old Media New technologies bring new opportunities as well as threats to existing media. 4 Rogers discussed the effects of television on film and radio in the 1950s in the United States and noted that leisure time use was affected, as television grabbed huge gobs of time away

from radio-listening, reading, and other activities. 5 In a study of the effect of new technology on existing mass media advertising revenues and consumer spending between 1929-1968, McCombs proposed the hypothesis of relative constancy. He found that media spending by consumers roughly parallel the growth of consumers’ income. Consumer spending on mass media was constant over time.6 The implication of this proposition for traditional media was clear: if new mass communication technology survived and thrived, it would be at the expense of traditional mass communication media. 7 However, more recent studies about new media technology suggested that the spending on new communication technology did not follow the trend of relative constancy. These studies showed that total consumer spending on mass media during the diffusion of cable television and videocassette recorder increased rather than being relatively constant.8 Wood also argued that constancy would fail as consumers devoted a greater share of income to buy new media technology. 9 Wood and O’Hare found that new video technology, such as VCR, was established without displacing the older mass media. 10 The results of these studies suggest that new media growth may not be at the expense of older media. As a new media...
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